SMTD to present ‘A Little Night Music‘ at Pontiac‘s Flagstar Strand Theatre


As Varner Hall renovations persist, OU’s School of Music, Theatre and Dance (SMTD) has had to adjust accordingly and supplement their performance facilities with sites off-campus.

In shows prior – including last semester’s “She Kills Monsters” and “Kaleidoscope Cabaret” from earlier this semester – theater students performed in the university’s adjunct facility, Baker College.

After “space-shopping,” the department stumbled upon the venue for their first mainstage show, Steven Sondheim’s “A Little Night Music:” The Flagstar Strand Theatre in Pontiac, a well-preserved, renaissance-style building fit for the musical’s elegance and Victorian time-period.

“A Little Night Music” originally opened on Broadway in 1973 and went on to win several Tony awards. Based on the 1955 film “Smiles of a Summer Night,” the show is about the hectic love life of actress Desiree Armfeldt and the men who love her.

Senior musical theater major Madison Wiley, who plays Petra in the production, described the show as being a story about the right and wrong choices we make in love, who we love and why.

Aside from the challenging literature, students have had to adjust to the facility, as it differs greatly from those provided on campus. Shows are typically held at the studio theatre in Varner where OU actors are taught to perform in a “thrust” wherein the audience surrounds the actors. The Strand, however, is a proscenium stage which requires actors to face out toward a single audience.

Because Oakland’s current facilities are limited to the one style, students have had to modify what they’ve been trained to do for the sake of this show. Seniors, especially, took this as a challenge, seeing as they are the furthest removed from performing in a proscenium space.

“I haven’t had to ‘turn out’ [or play to the audience] in a really long time,” Wiley said. “[The style is] not realistic, and so it’s hard getting used to it, because you’re so used to facing the camera or because you’re so used to [performing in the studio theatre].”

On top of the circumstances students had to adapt to, they also had limited time to rehearse in The Strand with the full set, props and costumes. By the time of opening, the company will have had a total of nine days to prepare the show.

This will be SMTD’s first time doing a Sondheim musical in five years, since their Fall 2018 production of “Into the Woods.” For students, studying and performing Sondheim’s works is an integral part of their education — one that, some may argue, last year’s graduating class — who never got the opportunity to audition for the fall shows at the time — was deprived of.

For those who aren’t familiar with his work, Sondheim wrote and composed musicals in such a way that amplified the story by utilizing layers and motifs. His style and approach was revolutionary, and remains extremely influential to his successors.

Sondheim’s music is a staple for a musical theater education, as it exposes students to both this type of storytelling and a challenging score.

“The songs ‘A Weekend in the Country’ and ‘Perpetual Anticipation’ are the epitome of Sondheim’s style,” Wiley said.

“A Little Night Music” runs this weekend only, March 23-25 at 8 p.m. and Mar. 25-26 at 2 p.m. at the Flagstar Strand Theatre at 12 N. Saginaw Street in Pontiac. You can secure tickets online at Ticket range from $12 for students to $22 for general admission.